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QUAKE SHAKES THE WIT INTO ITS SURVIVORS

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The jokes came quickly, and as predictably as aftershocks.

New ones are heard every day, offering proof that Northern Californians who lived through the rumbling were not scared out of their humor."Where there is anxiety, there will be jokes to express that anxiety," said University of California anthropology professor Alan Dundes. "There is a feeling of exaltation: `Ha, ha, you missed me!"'

The first jokes were off-the-cuff ones within minutes after the Oct. 17 quake, before people realized what damage had been done in some parts of town.

At Candlestick Park, where a World Series crowd of 60,000 felt the shaking as Game 3 was about to start, someone told baseball announcer Hank Greenwald that the quake had measured 6.9 on the Richter scale (later revised to 7.1).

"Yes, but I heard the East Germans only gave it 6.2," responded Greenwald.

Soon after driving through the toll booth on the Bay Bridge, two house painters found themselves at a standstill because one section had collapsed. "I want my dollar back," one said.

The professional humor writers and stand-up comedians are hitting the subject hard now.

"My house actually looks neater," comedian Bonnie Datt told a San Francisco audience.

Susan Cerce said at a San Francisco comedy club, "All these natural disasters - hurricanes in South Carolina, earthquakes in San Francisco - you get the impression that this planet will do anything to get attention."

Comedy writer John Cantu of San Francisco said, "I was driving on the street and a parking space opened up . . . and swallowed my car."